Transcript: Podship Earth Episode 45: RETRO
JARED BLUMENFELD: Welcome to Podship Earth. This is your host, Jared Blumenfeld.
DAVID KAHN: With David Kahn.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Yes. With David Kahn. I was going to say that.
DAVID KAHN: Featuring David Kahn, co-host.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, this is the year in review. Thanks for coming up to San Francisco. What I really learned, and I'd love to get your take, David, what I really learned was that it's really about people's stories. It's about how there's an emotional connection between them and the environment and you and them when they’re telling the story and that's what makes a great podcast. Those are the stories and then things that we've learned that I had no idea about. Like even though I spent my entire career, 25 years, doing environmental stuff, most of the people we met, they wouldn't be coming into an EPA office. They wouldn't be in the formal world, but they have so much to offer.
DAVID KAHN: The thing that I learned the most was that even somebody like me can make a contribution. I just didn't think that there's anything for me to do, that it was just bureaucrats and people are making administrative decisions to impact how I would live my life. And now, you know, California is passing the no plastic straw law.
JARED BLUMENFELD: You and I went on a lot of adventures. We're going to hear about some of them as we go along. That was really fun too. We're going to start off actually with Musa Mhlanga in Cape Town. Like at the beginning of the year, they were about to run out of water.
DAVID KAHN: Unbelievable.
MUSA MHLANGA: Cape Town has a massive water crisis. In fact, the water crisis is so bad that there is a day zero where the city's going to run out of water.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Wow.
MUSA MHLANGA: And that day is in, I think it's in sometime in May of this year.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, in May 2018, Cape Town is projected to completely run out of water.
MUSA MHLANGA: Completely.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Wow.
MUSA MHLANGA: A major city, and I think running out of water in a major city is like famine. It's a political thing.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, what is South Africa or Cape Town doing to meet that challenge?
MUSA MHLANGA: We have good desalination plants. We have very strict water regulations, but the foresight in doing some of these things was not adequate. So, if you ask me, much more could have been done.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, what will happen Musa, in May this year?
MUSA MHLANGA: The city's trying to drill into aquifers under Table Mountain. They're trying to deploy desalination plants. They're trying to do all kinds of things, ration water, but you know, I don't want to sound like a doomsday caller, but there is a very, very likely high likelihood that the city's going to run out of water.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Then, David, you and I went to the Central Valley. It's just kind of amazing that so many Californians still don't have access to drinking water.
DAVID KAHN: It is pretty crazy. I live in LA and there's golf courses everywhere and I'm taking 30-minute showers and when I hear that, I feel bad.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Not 30 minutes hopefully.
DAVID KAHN: Not anymore, but maybe at that time and I feel bad.
JARED BLUMENFELD: I don't think you've ever taken a 30-minute shower.
DAVID KAHN: I might've taken one in this building once before.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Not this building my house. I believe they make those records public now. Everyone's going to think I take 30-minute showers. Anyway, let's hear from Adriana Renteria from the Community Water Center.
ADRIANA RENTERIA: So, all around us, there are smaller communities, farm worker communities that really provide agriculture, not just for our state, but for the country and for the world really.
JARED BLUMENFELD: How many people do you think that you serve don't have access to water that meets federal drinking water standards?
ADRIANA RENTERIA: We estimate that over a million Californians currently don't have access to safe and affordable water.
JARED BLUMENFELD: That's a big number.
ADRIANA RENTERIA: That's a big number. I think one of the reasons why it's not on the forefront of our media is because it's not happening in one area. It's not just one, one city of 1 million people. This is happening throughout the state in small pockets and it's particularly affecting small rural communities, low income communities and communities of color. And so, when you have such a spread-out issue that looks many different ways, it's kind of hard to find one unified solution for it. But even beyond being exposed to unsafe water, during the drought, many people just lost access to water period. So, here in Tulare county, the community of East Porterville, they had over 2000 wells that went dry and so they were on private domestic wells. It really impacted that entire community's ability to live and to feel healthy. You know, even things like washing dishes. Well, the community really came together and especially the community church offered showers. The schools opened up to provide an opportunity for the students to take showers. I grew up in the valley. All of this is my family. My parents were farm workers, so I really relate to a lot of the smaller communities in the area and just really thought, that's not just happening in Flint. It's also happening here in my hometown, in my community.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, to learn from the world experts in water conservation, David and I jump on an ELAL jet and we go to Israel. That was like our biggest adventure of the year together.
DAVID KAHN: That's probably my biggest adventure of my life, but it just an incredible shift in perspective when you realize like how limited their access is to water. It’s just mind-boggling.
JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the things that blew me away is that in California they recycle 9% of wastewater. And in Israel it's 80%.
DAVID KAHN: I mean, that's unbelievable.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Yeah. So here we hear from like one of the environmental leaders in Israel, Jay Shofet.
JAY SHOFET: Water issues have been from time in memorial the main problematic issues of this part of the world. Some of it is, you know, probably cyclical cycles, but Israel's current drought cycle is unprecedented. You know, many people think like many things in the world, the extreme weather events that are happening are due to climate change in Israel a tiny country isn't a huge contributor to the global problem, but as a coastal country and as a very fragile country situated here at the intersection of three continents and five climatic zones, we're very sensitive to changes. What we call the Jordan river is really just a trickle, not navigable even by a flat-bottomed Kayak. People try to do that early in the summer before the summer really started. It was not possible. The problem is both the lack of rainwater and the rapid development, I would say to a large degree, especially up north, the nature protection people are in a constant struggle with the farmers. One of our simple solutions is, but if we just take the water downstream rather than upstream, we can pay for it to go back upstream in a pipe, but that allows nature and people included to, you know, to be able to kayak and benefit. Keeping that water flowing through nature is one of our top goals. And then in the Dead Sea, the problem is exacerbated by a couple of things. One is all of the mining that goes on for salt and potassium and bromide and the geology of the area is causing these huge sinkholes, which were making it really dangerous. Gas stations were falling into the cracks in the road and every month they're changing another portion of the road.
JARED BLUMENFELD: We're in Tel Aviv right now. It looks like there's rampant development. Where are they getting their water from, Jay?
JAY SHOFET: What's really feeding the huge development and what's making sure that what happened in or almost happened in Cape Town is never going to happen here, is there are heavily, and I think wise precedents, and a relatively well-planned investment in desalination. We have five plants online. Four along the Mediterranean, one in the Gulf of Aqaba. There's another one coming online that will be powered by solar power in Aqaba that we are theoretically sharing with the Jordanians. And that's keeping water in the taps, but it's not keeping water in nature. There's is a plan now to put desalinated water back in the Jordan River. And of course, the overuse of the aquifers, under the coastal aquifer and the mountain aquifer which Israel uses at will and until those aquifers are also dangerously close to their red lines and they can start to get brackish. We are still the biggest and only real fresh water reservoir source in the country. We’re by far the country that reuses 80 percent of its waste water.
JARED BLUMENFELD: You and I had an amazing time in the West Bank learning about water issues.
DAVID KAHN: We did. I thought it was an incredible trip. I definitely was a little bit worried but as soon as we got it in there, there was a huge Coca Cola sign and I knew we were going to be okay.
JARED BLUMENFELD: You just felt comfortable.
DAVID KAHN: I did enjoy being there and the education and I mean the whole experience was just eye-opening and just breaking down all the ideas that I thought that I understood about the conflict.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Leaving the comfort zone of California, going out and seeing the world, kind of just opens horizons. You think of the well differently. You see stuff differently, like how they approach stuff. It really helped me get out of the place I was in.
DAVID KAHN: No, definitely. I mean, look, I've never been on a plane for 15 hours. The idea of sitting on a plane that long was an anxiety experience. Now I know you're planning our next trip, which will be 20-hours to like the South Pole. But it'll be fun.
JARED BLUMENFELD: I can't wait to do that. So, in Ramallah we met with Dr. Abdelrahman Tamimi and here he is.
DR. TAMIMI: In Palestine and in most of the Mediterranean countries, water is a political, social, and economical issue. And what is the main, the driver of the problem? We have very limited water resources because we are in semi desert area and we have a huge demand. Population growth, economic development and urbanization, climate change - all these drivers, they're making the water issue is very complicated and at the same time, the Palestinians and Israelis, they are sharing the same aquifers. Sharing the same aquifer means everyone, the Israeli side and the Palestinian side, tries to make his share bigger. That’s why the whole conflict is about how to share the cake. You can't live without enough drinking water for one day. That's why the water issue is his main driver for conflict. And it's a part of the clash between Palestinians and Israelis because everyone wants to control the water resources. And unfortunately, the political dimension of this problem is that the Israelis claim this is their historic right, their religious right. And the Palestinians, they have the same claims.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Ultimately, for equity, everyone needs to share the water because there's limited water and more and more people. So how, how is that happening?
DR. TAMIMI: Equity with occupation doesn't work together because you come and occupy another people’s land and other people’s water and use it for your benefit without taking into consideration the interest of other side, which is the Palestinians in this case. That's why the conflict, the core of the conflict, there is occupied and there is the occupier. And the relationship between the occupied and the occupier, like any case in the world, is always unbalanced, unjust and unfair.
JARED BLUMENFELD: As result of having so little water, it seems like you're doing everything right to squeeze water wherever you can't. Tell us about some of the innovations.
DR. TAMIMI And we have a huge public awareness campaigns to save water and not the waste water, to use the gray water, which is not a wastewater, but it is without the bathroom water, to use it for gardening for a production trees like olive trees or other things. And at the same time, we encourage people to collect rain water during the winter and use it in the summer. There is a lot of activities just to make Palestinians have additional water. And at the same time, the water harvesting doesn't need Israeli permits. That's because they cannot catch the rain.
NEWS: Smoke fills the air. Neighborhood after neighborhood evacuated as these fires rage. Here in Santa Rosa, the fire 0% containment. Eventually hundreds of will return to see their homes destroyed, devastated by wildfires that are raging through California's wine country.
JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the big themes of 2018 was wildfires throughout the west, actually throughout the world. Russia, Greece, everywhere you looked, things were burning. Early on with Podship Earth, we went to Santa Rosa, which had experienced one of the deadliest wildfires at that time in California's history and met with people who had survived and lived through it. And it was really just so heart wrenching talking with them.
DAVID KAHN: I mean, it's devastating. It's hard to understand what someone else is going through. The same thing happened later this year in Malibu. It's unbelievable. Just the power of nature and the force of these fires.
JARED BLUMENFELD: We talked with Lori Barekman and Lauren Martin.
NEWS: Awful transformer structure fire.
LORI BAREKMAN: It was just crazy windy. We live in a hilly area. Everything was just ripping by. And so that night we went to sleep, and my daughter ended up waking us up saying, you know, I think there's something that you should know. And we went out on our back deck and all the neighbors are up and you know you can just see-
UNCLE KENNY: It was warm. It was windy. The house was rattling, and we smelled smoke, so around midnight, we walked outside and looked and saw the hills burning. We would look maybe 20, 30 miles away, so I think it's coming from over there. Then all of a sudden you look out another window and the sky is glowing, a pinkish orange color.
LAUREN MARTIN: Nobody told us to leave. There were no firemen knocking on our door. We left based on a feeling that something wasn't right. By the morning our house was totally burned to the ground and the trees burned for days after that because the firemen had to prioritize people's lives. They were out rescuing people. So, it really happened very quickly. I've heard from other people that the winds were moving so fast that people were in their homes and they would see the fire on the horizon and before they could get their things together, their roof was on fire. It was that fast.
LORI BAREKMAN: I knew when I saw it, I knew everything was going to go. I knew we weren't going to come back to stuff. It moved so fast and you could just, I mean, it was a wall of flames. I threw blankets in the car and maybe a pillow or two, and stuffed animal. For sure it was within a mile – Unfortunately, lots of people have had much more horrifying things where things are on fire around them, you know? We do have friends who didn't make it out of the fire. It was unstoppable.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, David, another big theme that we explored with Podship Earth this year, was how the media portrays environmental issues. I don’t know how it's affected how you see and like take in environmental news.
DAVID KAHN: I just think it's crazy with respect to how many different reporters and outlets are putting out information about the environment and they're so ignorant and uninformed. There's so much scientific information out there. Why don't they talk to people who understand what's happening with the climate? And report on something accurately instead of their opinion based on very little information.
JARED BLUMENFELD: And then the other thing I see is like all this need to like have this false balance where you know what, even though 99% of people in the scientific community understand climate change is real, they kind of share this screen with some complete wingnut, not who clearly has no idea what they're talking about, but their view gets equal weight. This whole equal weight thing drives me bonkers.
DAVID KAHN: It’s not even equal weight. I think they get more weight and because they're sitting there yelling into their bull horn, so it sounds like their story is the real one. And then, somehow people that are educated and scientists and have done research for decades, their voice is not heard as loud. Mostly because they're not as obnoxious or trying to get their message out there. But it's definitely something that has to change.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, we caught up with Betsy Rosenberg, she's a kind of force of nature. Here's what Betsy had to say.
BETSY ROSENBERG: It's almost like there was a memo that said, no matter how many heat records we break and how many you know, infernos we have burning, how many monster, mudslides or “horrorcanes” as I call them, because this is all weather on steroids…they never say this could be climate change. The news networks are not only catering to the base that voted for Trump, meaning lowest common denominator and talking down to them for fear of alienating them, but since when do you do news by ratings? It's supposed to be about the most important stories of our time, and this is the biggest story that's not getting told. There is not one program, not one hour of programming on, regular programming, except maybe an occasional special, on environmental challenges and solutions. So, when I do see these occasional stories on the TV network news -documentary, CNN sent, went up to the melting Arctic, they called it global warning, but there was absolutely nothing throughout the whole hour, which is a lot for them to devote to climate change, about what to do. And it’s like we're going Zombie-like off of a climate cliff. Why is there that missing piece consistently? Always. We kind of went from ‘problem, what problem?’ to, ‘oh yeah, it's too late.’ What about that sweet spot in the middle, which has been at least 20 years that I've been paying attention, where we talk about what we can do? There’s is a sense of defeatism. Ignorance and then, oh yeah, there's nothing we can do, when there's everything we can do. So, the polarization actually is the saddest thing for me because we haven't used this as a great unifier. Every time we mention climate change, the it shows that the ratings go down, people tune out. We have an ECO literacy crisis in this country. The dots have not been connected. If the dots were connected by meteorologists, reporters, anchors, when we're having no shortage of extreme weather events, so destructive, so long lasting in terms of impact. They still don't have electricity and water in a big part of Puerto Rico, but is that in the headlines? No. Because they don't connect those dots and people say, well, the environment is too depressing. You think Trump and what's going on is not depressing? So, there's all this hypocrisy. We're in a big planetary pickle, and it's late in the game and who is talking to the American adult population about what we can do?
JARED BLUMENFELD: So David, the next thing that I really wanted to focus on Podship Earth, it's kind of the psychological underpinnings of how we talk about the environment, how we talk about change. And it is often very fear and guilt driven. In the first episode we said very clearly that we only protect the things we love, and we only love the things we experience, and if we experience nature, we're going to protect it, as opposed to saying, you should do this, David. I think you know you're a bad person for not doing this. We met with Renee Lertzman, and she kind of talked us through some guilt issues.
DR. RENEE LERTZMAN: I A lot of climate and environmental organizations and initiatives, you know, are mainly focused on raising levels of awareness and educating people about what's happening.
JARED BLUMENFELD: A lot of the campaigns that I get through the letter box or see get bombarded on email, they're trying to tell me what I should do, and it feels very shame and guilt driven rather than helping us feel that we'd want to do it.
DR. RENEE LERTZMAN: I think that we're hopefully in a bit of a paradigm shift where there's a growing recognition that the way that we communicate about these issues really has to change and that the legacy of the past few decades has been, how do we push the right levers to get people to feel motivated? And that way of thinking itself is very counterproductive. And the legacy of the past few decades has been how do we push the right levers to get people to feel motivated? And that way of thinking itself is very counterproductive. And when you create a context of safety, compassion, acceptance, which is sounds so foreign to most environmental folks, that it changes the whole dynamic.
JARED BLUMENFELD: I don't think we really started Podship Earth thinking that there'd be these kind of Buddhist undertones, but certainly meeting Johanna Macey early on kind of blew my mind a whole frame of, you know what? There are bad things happening to the earth. We need to grieve them, and we need to move on. And that was so cathartic for me. I really appreciated Johanna.
DAVID KAHN: And I just think harboring resentment and carrying stuff with us, it's not going to allow us to move forward. I was shocked just to hear her say that because I want to like get in there and fight with people and blame them for things. But to hear her say that it was just like, that's okay, let's move on. What's next? And I like that attitude.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Anger is sometimes an appropriate reaction, but like, what do we do with that? How do we move past it? Here's the author Johanna Macy, who gives us some perspective.
JOHANNA MACY: It's probably one of the hardest times I can imagine, to open your eyes, open the mind, open the heart to what is happening in and with our species and our planet. So, we walk around numbing ourselves as perfectly natural. You know, we have lives to live and we feel. We're tempted to think that, if I let myself really feel the grief, the disgust, the dismay and the outrage that is there in me, and the fear, well, I wouldn't be able to live my life. I'd be stuck in it forever. Everything is impermanent and so are our feelings. And if we can't speak what we feel, then it just makes room for other things. We're not stopped anymore. It's not in our throats. And there's vitality in that. It’s beautiful to get into even stomping and sharing how disgusting and obscene this is what has been happening to our earth and how people are being bought and people are being automated. But then, once you're able to do this with folks that you trust, pretty soon you find yourself just in love and hilarity because it's pure. It's just energy. And we've been afraid to let life in.
JARED BLUMENFELD: It feels like our entire life is programmed around devices, iPhones, tablets, laptops, you know, everything, every device we have seems intent, TV's, on distracting us from understanding the world around us. I think distraction is a huge, big mega theme of the age that we live in. David, could you stop looking at your iPhone? What are you doing? Come on. It is like an addiction.
DAVID KAHN: Oh yeah, of course. I mean, you wake up, first thing I do in the morning is look at my phone and see how many emails came in from the east coast. Almost every day, I'm almost programmed and then I just tell myself, don't look at your phone for five minutes, another 10 minutes. Because as soon as it happens, it's like I'm just plugged in.
JARED BLUMENFELD: We found some answers by talking with Dr. Denise Renye.
DR. DENISE RENYE: The more people distract themselves, the more that there's harm to the planet and the more that people can make time and space for themselves and self-awareness and valuing themselves and others and their relationships with others, then the relationship with the planet changes, and then therefore the planet itself changes. You know, distraction is really the undermining of humanity's ability to pay attention. We’re really losing the ability to then manage our future.
JARED BLUMENFELD: I meet up with Alex SooJung-Kim Pang who helps us understand that this isn't a new problem.
ALEX SOOJUNG-KIM PANG: Distraction is a very old problem and also a very old phenomenon, right? You know, the fact that Buddhists have been talking about this for literally thousands of years… you know, they have the concept of the monkey mind, the mind that keeps jumping from one subject to another, that is captured by first one thing and then something else, and never settles down
JARED BLUMENFELD: In our travels, we've met a lot of religious and spiritual leaders. It's been fun. Like it's really actually been fulfilling for me.
DAVID KAHN: There's definitely a lot of insight that you can get from being around people that are, you know, trying to access their faith in their higher power and you believe in a higher power. I definitely do.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Well, what would that higher power be?
DAVID KAHN: It might be Obi Wan Kenobi. It might be an alien from another planet. I mean, I definitely believe that we're all connected and that there is a higher calling.
JARED BLUMENFELD: We caught up with Golo Pilz of the Brahma Kumaris. I love these guys. Let's hear from Golo.
GOLO PILZ: Well, at the UN, we talk a lot about resilience and inner strength and creating local networks. So, meditation helps you. That has been also proven, to strengthen your social competence. You are in harmony with yourself. You love yourself. And if you love yourself, you love others and you love nature, so you change automatically behavior because you don't want to destroy something which you love or which you appreciate. Meditation helps you to change habits. Psychology has done a lot of research and they found out when you meditate, you literally increase the neural flexibility, the plasticity of your brain. You're open to new ideas and you're able to get rid of old ideas or old behavior patterns. So, this is something also very, very important. We have to adopt a contemplative manner, a meditative approach, and we have to go time to time into silence and reflection. And this helps us a lot to change, to build up inner resilience, and that's what we need for the coming days.
JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the things that really inspired me to do Podship Earth and I spent a lot of time referencing and talking about was the Pacific Crest Trail and I just loved it. I miss it every day and Podship Earth kind of helps me connect to people that also have a connection with nature. In my interview with Johanna Macy, she described two separate rivers of science and spirituality converging into one great body of water. I ask her to explain what she means by that.
JOHANNA MACY: They're flowing together. Just an as we are here. And what they have in common, what each of those rivers is telling us, the science and the spirituality is that our planet is alive. She is the whole. She is our larger body. We are living members in her and the adventure we have now is learning to experience that, learning to trust that. Gratitude opens the gates very wide to experience that, and also, being unafraid to be drowned in tears too or scared shitless.
JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the coolest things about Podship Earth is that it got me outdoors a lot and I got to do some fun things like hike Mount Shasta with my son Markus and go fly fishing. And in this clip, I go to Ghost Ranch with my cousin Yair along the Continental Divide Trail.
We're right next to a little babbling brook. It's pretty sweet. So, you're saying on the trail that someone that doesn't have roots in life becomes kind of, it's a difficult thing to not have roots. What did that mean?
YAIR: Sometimes people that are having a hard time finding their identity and knowing who they are, have, you know, roots connected to something in the past, something that grounds them, keep trying to get reinforcements from the outside to who they want to be. And they can be very aggressive sometimes or angry when they don't get the reinforcement they need.
JARED BLUMENFELD: For me, I mean, it is a struggle. It's not easy to know who you are. Everyone assumes you must know who you are. But getting rid of all the societal bullshit, what your parents think you should do, all the neurotic crap. Like it's hard. Like for me, being in nature just strips away all that bullshit and you kind of are left with who you are. That's why some people I think have a really hard time in nature because it's just so exposing.
YAIR: I yeah, I agree. I mean, nature is exposing, especially the hiking. It is very alone, you know, you have a lot of time to think and doubt and talk to yourself.
JARED BLUMENFELD: When I met up with Kim Chambers, I just realized she was just awesome. I mean, this woman has done absolutely incredible feats that I would never even contemplate doing. I got in the water in the San Francisco Bay, froze my absolute ass off. What I learned from Kim was this indomitable spirit to continue to keep pushing. I don’t know. She's amazing.
KIM CHAMBERS: I think also my experiences as it's so primal, you get to connect with, well, you get to connect with yourself because you become very aware of, okay, um, how's my body feel? Am I tired? I called, you get to really, be very, aware of every part of your body, which is, I don't think we really get to do that on every day, you know, world on land and also the connection with nature and The Molokai channel is a very rough stretch of water. There's tiger sharks and Portuguese man of war. I got in at eight thirty at night at Molokai. Even at night the water is so clear and it's just like a dream. And you, you know, my fingers would go through the water and the bio-luminescence just sparkles like glitter off my fingertips and it becomes mesmerizing. And you know, when you're in the water in the beginning, your heart and the adrenaline, everything, it's so, so scary. I mean, I'm the first to say I have been terrified with every one of these swims. I don't do them because I'm not scared. It's the opposite.
JARED BLUMENFELD: You do them because you are scared.
KIM CHAMBERS: Yes. Yeah, I know. Because I have learned the satisfaction, the gift of pushing through it because for the rest of your life you can say I did that. And it's not to boast about it. It's just because you are going to go through trauma again. It's inevitable in life, but there's these little treasures that you can just tuck away in your back pocket and be like, I'm going through something really difficult right now. But shit, I just, I swam from Molokai to Oahu. If I can do that, I can get through this.
JARED BLUMENFELD: It's obviously a big ridiculous hardship and incredibly strenuous and you need a lot of tenacity and all those things, but at the same time you can really see how engaged you are in being in the water.
KIM CHAMBERS: It just feels like that's where it should be. It's so primal and nothing else matters, nothing else. And I think that if you can just imagine doing something you didn't think you could do, and even if it does scare you, you will evolve in a completely different way. You'll find a fulfillment. You will grow as a human being. And if I can do this, anyone can do this. I think we all deserve to be the best versions of ourselves. It's easier said than done, but my experience has been one of wonderment and fulfillment, and I'm not done yet.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Talking about indomitable spirits, Podship Earth contributor Friday Apaliski and I sat down with Madonna Thunder Hawk and her daughter, Marcella Gilbert to talk about the movie “Warrior Women.”
MADONNA THUNDER HAWK: We were a movement of families.
MARCY GILBERT: Being the daughter of Madonna, she definitely had a reputation of being strong. And when someone went to her for help, she did what she had to do to make a difference.
MADONNA THUNDER HAWK: Each generation has to pick up the fight. the struggle. Yeah, it's just an ongoing thing with the younger generations in this country, realizing that, as indigenous people, we're not standing alone, that this is something that's affecting everybody. And then when we were up there at the camp in 2016 and then November comes rolling around and Trump gets in, you know, it shocked everybody. And literally because we were there watching elders supporting all the young people that were there.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Marcy, what does it mean in 2018 to be indigenous in this country?
MARCY GILBERT: When we have a corporate monstrosity that's killing the air and killing the water and killing the land and killing the natural, you know, the natural relatives, you know, all the animals and plants and everything, it definitely has a different meaning now. And so those issues are real for everybody.
JARED BLUMENFELD: There's a very strong sense in the movie of your identity. You know who you are, where you came from, how you fit into the landscape, your role. Whereas I think many people feel adrift. You feel very in the movie and right now, very grounded.
MARCY GILBERT: Growing up in an activist family, you learn where you come from, where you, where you come from, what your responsibilities are, what direction you should be going in, and then learning the tools to move forward in a meaningful way. So, it's not a clear easy path, but it's worth it because you do, when you get through all that, you do have a sense of identity. Who you are and what your responsibilities are and how all these gifts that you got from your experiences. How do we use those to move forward as indigenous people? We have the right to be here.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, David, one of the cool things for me to witness was you going to your first political rally. You got energized, radicalized.
DAVID KAHN: It was fun. I felt like, I mean there were a lot of politicians and career people there and I think it would be a lot of fun to do stuff that was outside the city where there was a lot of ground swell. I mean people were passionate, but this is about public policy.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, you're, you're ready to go to your like Dakota access.
DAVID KAHN: Definitely 100%, I want to be out there. I want to experience this with everybody else and you know, just get involved.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Fighting for your right to live on the planet.
DAVID KAHN: 100%, I want to participate in, I want to see what's happening.
JARED BLUMENFELD:So, taking of connection to the earth, David, I was just blown away by Pandora Thomas just talking about inmates at San Quentin and she's talking about permaculture with them. If I was in prison, I'm not sure I'd be able to think about permaculture.
DAVID KAHN: I thought that was ridiculous, that somebody incarcerated is even thinking about the environment at all. I thought was amazing.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Let's hear from Pandora.
PANDORA THOMAS: It's like the same pain and frustration. We're all on outside feeling about what's happening. They were expressing that we would do activities that help them reconnect to stories and experiences of being in nature when they were outside, but also on the inside. So, they really just loved being able to retrace that connection, learn how to teach their peers about it. So, I think they were just excited to be equipped with the same kind of environmental literacy that others have and having it on the inside. And the men also encouraged us to then go off and work out for the reentry community. So, for men and women coming home, the powerful shifts that can happen when they're learning about nature, natural systems and their own patterns.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Pandora, I know you've seen some shifts through your work with community climate resilience projects as well. How did you make those happen?
PANDORA THOMAS: We didn't start as designers that go in and say, we're going to come up with some designs and then we love to get your feedback and engage you as a community. We wanted to turn that on the head and start with what do you as a community even need us to focus on? What are you already doing? What assets already exist? So, they assessed, they shared their stories. We talked a lot about what it has looked like as long as these African American communities have moved there. Then as they assessed what happened, we started to go out onto the land, observe, and then slowly they learned and shared strategies. So, what might you do in this site to curb flooding? And then we would share ideas. They would share ideas. We created what's called a people's plan from Marine City, and this people's plan is not a static.
DAVID KAHN: Yeah, I thought it was crazy when they were talking about how many hours kids spend outside versus how many hours people that are incarcerated are allowed to spend in the yard. And the fact that people that are incarcerated spend more time outdoors than kids that are in school. It's crazy.
JARED BLUMENFELD: We catch up with Richard Louv who wrote the book last child in the woods,
RICHARD LOUV: Not that many years ago, some environmental educators believe it or not did not respond well to the idea that maybe we ought to be taking kids outdoors. They didn't see that as part of environmental education. One of the things I'd like to see a lot more of his schools and libraries becoming centers of bioregional knowledge and awareness to focus at least some of the science that they learn in school on their own bioregion.
JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the most toddling headlines to come out of your research and your writing, Richard, was the relationship between ADHD and the fact that it's aggravated by a lack of exposure to nature.
RICHARD LOUV: Today, if you go to the Children in Nature Network, which is a nonprofit that grew out of Last Child in the Woods, you'll see abstracts for over 700 studies and they all seem to point in the same direction, which is being outdoors is good for physical health, mental health and cognitive functioning.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, David what are the things that you think you could fight for?
DAVID KAHN: I haven't studied statistics since I was in college, but when you look at the evidence that people in the same county, some people are living to be 90 and some of them are living to be like 70, it's shocking.
JARED BLUMENFELD: We caught up with Dr. Anthony Iton who is an expert in this field.
DR. ANTHONY ITON: Well, the really interesting thing is that when you set foot in any of these places, the first thing you notice is that every major system is pretty much offline. Transportation is inadequate, housing is overcrowded, expensive. There's lacking sidewalks and sort of physical infrastructure. Parks are poorly maintained if they exist at all. There are generally freeways running to or through those communities. You don't have grocery stores, you have fast food places, corner stores. It's the same city, you know, so the parks department, it's the same land use decision making agencies. It's the same, you know, public works. Yet you see one part of the city managed in a completely different way than another part of the city.
JARED BLUMENFELD: What did you find were the causes of this disparate treatment?
DR. ANTHONY ITON: You're forced to conclude that the difference here is that people are undervalued in these places because they don't have power. They're not seen as having a sufficient control over how decisions are made. So, they're ignored and neglected. And that has adverse impacts, not just on their physical environment, but also on the social environment. People start to internalize that devaluation and it actually changes their physiology. That's what we've come to understand over the years that it, it's not just the environment, the environment gets under the skin and changes how people's actual physiology operates. And we found a life expectancy differences even within the same city, in Oakland, of 22 years, between, you know, a neighborhood in the flatlands and the neighborhood and the hills, which is, you know, the equivalent of living in Sweden or living in Afghanistan. You're finding the socioecological equivalent of a war-torn country in Alameda county, as well as some of the highest standard of living in the developed world, within miles of each other.
JARED BLUMENFELD: We used to think that it was a genetic code and you described it as really this is a zip code has a predetermined an impact on these outcomes. One of the people that I look up to and respect the most is Marie Harrison. Marie's been fighting in the trenches in San Francisco's Bayview and it was super cool to reconnect with her.
DAVID KAHN: Yeah man. She spoke truth to power her whole life.
MARIE HARRISON: You know, the one thing I do resent is for you to look me in the face and calling me a liar. You can say anything you want to say to me or about me. But do not call me a liar. And you’re going to sit here and tell me why you are saying I was lying. And she told me after the meeting, look, I have to keep my job and it's not personal Marie, but you guys just won't give up.
JARED BLUMENFELD: But it now turns out, right, in the newspapers that a lot of what you were saying -
MARIE HARRISON: Not just a lot. Everything, everything that we, every issue that we rose.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Tell us about some of the large contractors what they’ve been up to.
MARIE HARRISON: Well, let's start off with the beginning. The first lie was that they were monitoring all of the dust and the air coming off of the shipyard and during all the heavy grading. It was a lie. When we're putting monitors in the community, we discovered that none of the community monitors - it was an empty box! It had no workings in it. Lie number two, we're all out here screaming that this stuff is coming over the fence line and you're saying that you have permission from the community to allow radioactive dust coming over the fence into the home. No, somebody needs to tell me when this happened and who these people were. I never got the information and our health department literally was helping them out with the lie and they turned the health department out on the community in force. There was no actual going out sampling anything.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, what's the lesson, Marie? You've been in the frontline. You've sat in thousands of community meetings. You've had people lie to your face, you see that people want to speed things up to make more money. You've seen the community that's been disenfranchised and they're now selling those condos in the communities that you used to live in for a million dollars to people who never even heard of the shipyard. Like what does it make you think?
MARIE HARRISON: Oh my god, it's not just Bayview, it's not just in one black community. Every poor black community in the United States in this whole big place are going through the same things and with the same agencies. It makes no sense. It's mind boggling. I mean they said take it out to the street. This has become literally one of those kinds of battles. We literally have to take them out to the street. And to remember, it doesn't matter how tired, how disappointed you are, maybe everything Is saying, being said to you as being said by lying and cheating, and there's always a no at the end of that, you have to remember that is more than just your neighbor's life or their children's lives. It's actually your life.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Another fighter who puts his body on the line and got an arrested about, I think 19 times, is Randy Hayes. When we sat down with Randy, it really impacted you, David. I remember you were like, wow, I need to do more.
DAVID KAHN: It still impacts me. I think everything he said. I mean, the one thing that he said that scared me the most was that people are soft now. Even the Sierra Club, those people are just soft. And I was thinking, wow, I mean, he's really, he's speaking his truth. And that inspired me.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Here’s Randy.
RANDY HAYES: I recommend to everybody out there, and particularly with young people, you know, put your body on the line in a nonviolent way, right? Do it responsibly but understand the consequences. And this is a life and death issue. We're talking about life and death of not just future generations of us humans, but all life on earth. And the rest of the web of life has just as much right to evolve in its own direction as we do. So, we may be the human species self-absorbed in ourselves much of the time, but we need to get outside of that bubble and understand that there is no human species without a healthy web of life. And it is deeply damaged, and we don't have much time. We only have time for big steps in the right direction.
JARED BLUMENFELD: People now I think feel like if they sign an online petition, that's pretty much the same as putting your body on the line.
RANDY HAYES: People don't sign an online petition really. They click a button, you know, clicktivism, and it just relatively worthless if not in fact damaging, in terms of getting the job done. So, I recommend, cut that shit out, quit doing it, do something more meaningful, you know, do something real. Work with your neighbors and your friends and march down the street to some outfit that's doing something nefarious and just tell them, you want them to change and when they don't, go back a second time and a third time. We called it the three by three strategy, you know, go at least three times and ask them. And then if they still don't, particularly say it at college universities, go to the administration, and say, look, we want 100 percent renewable energy, and we want it fast. We'll give you six months. Get it done. We got to save this planet. Divest your college endowment and we want that done in nine months or less. That's all you get. You know, the same time it takes to birth a human. Quit pissing around, get the shit done. And ask them. Bee polite the first time. Be less polite the second time, be less polite the third time and the fourth time do nonviolent civil disobedience. Shutdown that administration building on the college campus. Don't let them get away with this shit. They're killing your planet. They're killing your future careers. You might graduate with a degree like 8,000 people did yesterday at ATT park in San Francisco where the Giants play. And they're all hopeful, spirited people, who want to get out there. But I told them in my speech yesterday, there's no social justice and there's no vibrant economy on a nearly dead planet and that's what's going on. So, get off your butt quick, quit clicking the computer, and get out there and raise some hell.
JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the cool things, things that's changed and that I've really been excited by is just the number of young people that think of the environment as their number one issue. And when I was in the UK talking to Paul McNamee about Brexit, this is what he said.
PAUL MCNAMEE: So, there was an election in 2017 where the conservatives lost their majority and polling that came out straight after, which surprised even us, said that climate and environment were for under 35’s, the top two issues, and for under 24 year-olds, climate change was the number one issue for 24 year-olds.
JARED BLUMENFELD: This week's episode ends where the entire series of Podship Earth began with Gina McCarthy, the former administrator of The Environmental Protection Agency, and a personal hero of mine. People have a visceral and really depressed reaction to this kind of news. Actually, I do. The environmental indicators are not pointing in the right direction when it comes to the world climate, oceans, wildlife, you name it. Gina, as someone who's been in the driver's seat for so many years and had such a comprehensive view, give us some context. How much should we be worrying?
GINA MCCARTHY: Well, I'm not suggesting you shouldn't be worried, but what I'm suggesting is that you shouldn't be hopeless or else, nothing will happen but what they dictate. You know, this is the United States of America. They don't get to make all these decisions without public input, and we have to raise our voices
JARED BLUMENFELD: David, we met with 156 people. It's been an amazing year. I just want to thank you for helping make it all happen and it's really been fun.
DAVID KAHN: It has been fun. I mean, when we started, I didn't realize how involved I was going to be. I didn't realize we were going to travel. There are so many places; I didn't realize we were going spend so much time together. So, it has been a treat and I do appreciate it.
JARED BLUMENFELD: And we just scratched the surface this week. I mean literally there's so many cool people that we spoke to, and the thing that I look forward to in the year ahead is like, it's nearly an unlimited supply of amazing people doing really, really cool work to help heal the planet.
DAVID KAHN: Can we talk to some people about aliens next year?
JARED BLUMENFELD: No. So next year is going to be amazing. I predict some changes on the horizon. Who knows what will happen, but you never know, I could end up doing different things. But I want to make sure we keep Podship Earth going. One of the cool things that we did, David, was make a poster. I love the Podship Earth poster.
DAVID KAHN: I love the poster. I got like 500 of them. I give them out to my favorite restaurants in spots in Los Angeles. If you ever seen one of the posters up, you know that's Podship approved.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Take a picture of it, send it to David, and we'll send you a poster. It was like a treasure hunt for Podship Earth.
DAVID KAHN: It's like a Pokemon Podship Earth hunt.
JARED BLUMENFELD: I absolutely couldn't have done this without Rob Speight. Rob is our editor. He's incredible. He turns what would normally sound absolutely terrible. We sound amazing at the end of it, and a big thanks to Nancy Ferranti who helps produce the show, get the guests, coordinate everything, really appreciate it.
DAVID KAHN: And Hayley Block who works on some of the social media and a bunch of other stuff with me, and Will Wilkins who does some of the behind the scenes, technical wizardry for me. We have a really great team.
JARED BLUMENFELD: And also, when Rob was on vacation, Will took over. Next week, we're going to talk about New Year's resolutions.
DAVID KAHN: I have like five.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Can't wait to hear what they are. I have one or two myself. From me, Jared Blumenfeld…
DAVID KAHN: And me, David Kahn, the little guy…
JARED BLUMENFELD: Have a fabulous week.
BBC CLIP: Almost six and a half minutes past 12, and BBC One is closing down from all of us here. This is Peter Brook wishing you a very good night.